Chapter 13 – The February Revolution


Chapter 13

The February Revolution

The 123-year-old history of unequal citizenship of the Jewish people in Russia, from the Act of Catherine the Great of 1791, ended with the February Revolution.

It bears looking into the atmosphere of those February days; what was the state of society by the moment of emancipation?

There were no newspapers during the first week of the Revolutionary events in Petrograd. And then they began trumpeting, not looking for the ways to rebuild the state but vying with each other in denouncing all the things of the past. In an unprecedented gesture, the newspaper of the Constitutional Democrats (Kadets), Rech, announced that from now on “all Russian life must be rebuilt from the roots.”[1] (A thousand-year life! — why, all of a sudden from “the roots”?) And the Stock-Market News announced a program of action: “Yank, yank all these weed-roots out! No need to worry that there might be some useful plants among them — it’s better to weed them all even at the price of unavoidable innocent victims.”[2] (Was this really March 1917 or March 1937?) The new Minister of Foreign Affairs Milyukov bowed and scraped: “Up to now we blushed in front of our allies because of our government…. Russia was a dead weight for our allies.”[3]

Rarely in those beginning days was it possible to hear reasonable suggestions about rebuilding Russia. The streets of Petrograd were in chaos, the police were non-functional and all over the city there was continuous disorderly gunfire. But everything poured into a general rejoicing, though for every concrete question, there was a mess of thoughts and opinions, a cacophony of debating pens. All the press and society agreed on one thing — the immediate legislative enactment of Jewish equality. Fyodor Sologub eloquently wrote in the Birzheviye Vedomosti: “The most essential beginning of the civil freedom, without which our land cannot be blessed, the people cannot be righteous, national achievements would not be sanctified … — is the repeal of all religious and racial restrictions.”

The equality of Jews advanced very quickly. The 1st of March [old calendar style], one day before the abdication, a few hours before the infamous “Order No. 1,” which pushed the army to collapse, V. Makhlakov and M. Adzhemov, two commissars of the Duma Committee delegated to the Ministry of Justice, had issued an internal Ministry of Justice directive, ordering to enlist all Jewish-assistants to attorneys-at-law into the Guild of Judicial Attorneys. “Already by the 3rd of March … the Chairman of the State Duma, M. Rodzianko, and the Prime Minister of the Provisional Government, Prince G. Lvov, signed a declaration which stated that one of the main goals of the new government is a `repeal of all restrictions based upon religion, nationality and social class.´”[4] Then, on the 4th of March, the Defense Minister Guchkov proposed to open a path for the Jews to become military officers, and the Minister of Education Manuelov proposed to repeal the percentage quotas on the Jews. Both proposals were accepted without obstacles. On the 6th of March the Minister of Trade and Manufacturing, Konovalov, started to eliminate “national restrictions in corporative legislation,” that is, a repeal of the law forbidding purchase of land by companies with Jewish executives.

These measures were quickly put into practice. By the 8th of March in Moscow, 110 Jewish “assistants” were raised to the status of attorneys-at-law; by March 9th in Petrograd — 124 such Jews[5]; by the 8th of March in Odessa — 60.[6]  On the 9th of March the City Duma of Kiev, not waiting for the upcoming elections, included in its body five Jews with voting power.[7]

And here — on March 20 the Provisional Government made a resolution, prepared by the Minister of Justice, A. Kerensky, with the participation of members of the political bureau of Jewish deputies in the 4th State Duma … legislated an act, published on March 22, that repealed “all restrictions on the rights of Russian citizens, regardless of religious creed, dogma or nationality.” This was, in essence, the first broad legislative act of the Provisional Government. “At the request of the political bureaus (of Jewish deputies), the Jews were not specifically mentioned in the resolution.”[8]

But in order to “repeal all the restrictions on Jews in all of our laws, in order to uproot … completely the inequality of Jews,” G.B. Sliozberg recalls, “it was necessary to make a complete list of all the restrictions … and  the collation of the list of laws to be repealed required great thoroughness and experience.” (This task was undertaken by Sliozberg and L.M. Bramson.)[9] The Jewish Encyclopedia says: “The Act listed the statutes of Russian law that were being abolished by the Act — almost all those statutes (there were nearly 150) contained some or other anti-Jewish restrictions. Subject to repeal were, in part, all proscriptions connected to the Pale of Settlement; thereby its factual liquidation in 1915 was legally validated.[10] The restrictions were removed layer by layer: travel, habitation, educational institutions, participation in local self-government, the right to acquire property anywhere in Russia, participation in government contracts, from stock exchanges, hiring servants, workers and stewards of a different religion, the right to occupy high positions in the government and military service, guardianship and trusteeship. Recalling a cancellation of an agreement with the United States, they repealed similar restrictions on “foreigners who are not at war with the Russian government,” mainly in reference to Jews coming from the United States.

The promulgation of the Act inspired many emotional speeches. Deputy Freedman of the State Duma asserted: “For the past thirty-five years the Jews have been subjected to oppression and humiliation, unheard of and unprecedented even in the history of our long suffering people…. All of it … was the result of state-sponsored anti-Semitism.”[11]  Attorney O.O. Gruzenberg stated: “If the pre-Revolution Russian government was a vast and monstrous prison, … then its most stinking, terrible cell, its torture chamber was carted away for us, the six-million Jewish people.  And for the first time the Jewish child learned … about this usurious term `interest´ in the state school…. Like hard labor camp prisoners on their way to camp, all Jews were chained together as despised aliens…. The drops of blood of our fathers and mothers, the drops of blood of our sisters and brothers fell on our souls, there igniting and enlivening  the unextinguishable Revolutionary fire.”[12]

Rosa Georgievna, the wife of Vinaver, recalls: “The events (of the March 1917 Revolution) coincided with the Jewish Passover. It looked like this was a second escape from Egypt. Such a long, long path of suffering and struggle has passed, and how quickly everything had happened. A large Jewish meeting was called”, at which Milyukov spoke: “At last, a shameful spot has been washed away from Russia, which can now bravely step into the ranks of civilized nations.” Vinaver “proposed to the gathering to build a large Jewish public house in Petrograd in memory of the meeting, which will be called “The House of Freedom.”[13]

Three members of the State Duma, M. Bomash, E. Gurevich and N. Freedman published an “open letter to the Jewish people”: that now “our military misfortunes could deal grave damage to the still infirm free Russia. Free Jewish warriors … will draw new strength for the ongoing struggle, with the tenfold energy extending the great feat of arms.” And here was the natural plan: “The Jewish people should quickly re-organize their society. The long-obsolete forms of our communal life must be renewed on the free, democratic principles.”[14]

The author-journalist David Eisman responded to the Act with an outcry: “Our Motherland! Our Fatherland! They are in trouble! With all our hearts … we will defend our land…. Not since the defense of the Temple has there been such a sacred feat of arms.”

And from the memoirs of Sliozberg: “The great fortune to have lived to see the day of the declaration of emancipation of Jews in Russia and the elimination of our lack of rights — everything I have fought for with all my strength over the course of three decades — did not fill me with the joy as it should had been,” because the collapse had begun right away.[15]

And seventy years later one Jewish author expressed doubts too: “Did that formal legislative Act really change the situation in the country, where all legal norms were precipitously losing their power?”[16]

We answer: in hindsight, from great distance, one should not downplay the significance of what was achieved. Then, the Act suddenly and dramatically improved the situation of the Jews. As for the rest of the country, falling, with all its peoples, into an abyss — that was the unpredictable way of the history.

The most abrupt and notable change occurred in the judiciary. If earlier, the Batyushin’s commission on bribery investigated the business of the obvious crook D. Rubinstein, now the situation became reversed: the case against Rubinstein was dropped, and Rubinstein paid a visit to the Extraordinary Investigatory Commission in the Winter Palace and successfully demanded prosecution of the Batyushin’s commission itself. Indeed, in March 1917 they arrested General Batyushin, Colonel Rezanov, and other investigators. The investigation of activities of that commission began in April, and, as it turned out, the extortion of bribes from the bankers and sugar factory owners by them was apparently significant. Then the safes of Volga-Kama, Siberian, and Junker banks, previously sealed up by Batyushin, were unsealed and all the documents returned to the banks. (Semanovich and Manus were not so lucky. When Simanovich was arrested as secretary to Rasputin, he offered 15,000 rubles to the prison convoy guards, if they would let him make a phone call, yet “the request was, of course, turned down.”[17] As for Manus, suspected of being involved in shady dealings with the German agent Kolyshko, he battled the counterintelligence agents who came for him by shooting through his apartment’s door. After his arrest, he fled the country). The situation in the Extraordinary Investigatory Commission of the Provisional Government can be manifestly traced by records of interrogations in late March. Protopopov was asked how he came to be appointed to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and in response he mentioned the directive issued by him: “the residence rights of the Jews were significantly expanded” in Moscow. Asked about the priorities of his Ministry, he first recalled the foodstuffs affair, and, after then the progressive issue — the Jewish question….” The director of the Department of Police, A.T. Vasilyev didn’t miss an opportunity to inform the interrogators that he helped defend the sugar factory owners (Jews): “Gruzenberg called me in the morning in my apartment and thanked me for my cooperation”; “Rosenberg  … visited me to thank me for my efforts on his behalf.”[18] In this way, the accused tried to get some leniency for themselves.

A notable aspect of the weeks of March was an energetic pursuit of known or suspected Judeophobes. The first one arrested, on February 27, was the Minister of Justice Scheglovitov. He was accused of personally giving the order to unjustly pursue the case against Beilis. In subsequent days, the Beilis’s accusers, the prosecutor Vipper and Senator Chaplinsky, were also arrested. (However, they were not charged with anything specific, and in May 1917 Vipper was merely dismissed from his position as the chief prosecutor of the Criminal Department of the Senate; his fate was sealed later, by the Bolsheviks). The court investigator Mashkevich was ordered to resign — for during the Beilis trial he had sanctioned not only expert witness testimony against the argument on the ritual murder, but he also allowed a second expert testimony arguing for the case of such murder. The Minister of Justice Kerensky requested transfer of all materials of the Beilis case from the Kiev Regional Court,[19] planning a loud re-trial, but during the stormy course of 1917 that didn’t happen. The chairman of the “Union of the Russian People,” Dmitry Dubrovin, was arrested and his archive was seized; the publishers of the far-right newspapers Glinka-Yanchevsky and Poluboyarinova were arrested too; the bookstores of the Monarchist Union were simply burned down.

For two weeks, they hunted for the fugitives N. Markov and Zamyslovsky, doing nightly searches for two weeks in St. Petersburg, Kiev and Kursk. Zamislovsky was hunted for his participation in the case against Beilis, and Markov, obviously, for his speeches in the State Duma. At the same time, they didn’t touch Purishkevich, one assumes, because of his Revolutionary speeches in the Duma and his participation in the murder of Rasputin. An ugly rumor arose that Stolypin took part in the murder of Iollos, and in Kremenchuk, a street that had previously been named after Stolypin was renamed  after Iollos.

Over all of Russia there were hundreds of arrests, either because of their former positions  or even because of their former attitudes.

It should be noted that the announcement of Jewish equality did not cause a single pogrom. It is worth noticing not only for the comparison to 1905, but also because, all through March and April, all major newspapers were constantly reporting the preparation of pogroms, and that somewhere, the pogroms had already supposedly begun.

Rumors started on March 5, that somewhere either in Kiev or Poltava Province, Jewish pogroms were brewing, and someone in Petrograd put up a hand-written anti-Jewish flyer. As a result, the Executive Committee of Soviet Workers and Soldiers’ Deputies formed a special “visiting commission … led by Rafes, Aleksandrovich, and Sukhanov.” Their task was to “delegate commissars to various towns, with the first priority to go into the regions where the Black Hundreds, the servants of the old regime, are trying to sow ethnic antagonism among the population.”[20] In the newspaper Izvestia SRSD [Soviet Workers and Soldiers’ Deputies] there was an article Incitement to Pogrom: “It would be a huge mistake, tantamount to a crime, to close our eyes to a new attempt of the overthrown dynasty…” — because it is them [translator’s note — the Monarchists] who organize the trouble…. “In Kiev and Poltava provinces, among the underdeveloped, backwards classes of the population at this moment there is incitement against Jews…. Jews are blamed for the defeats of our Army, for the revolutionary movement in Russia, and for the fall of the monarchy…. It’s an old trick, … but all the more dangerous because of its timing…. It is necessary to quickly take decisive measures against the pogrom instigators.”[21] After this the commander of the Kiev Military District General Khodorovich issued an order: all military units are to be on high alert and be ready to prevent possible anti-Jewish riots.

Long after this, but still in April, in various newspapers, every two or three days they published rumors of preparations for Jewish pogroms,[22] or at the very least, about moving of piles of “pogrom literature” by railroads. Yet the most stubborn rumors circulated about a coming pogrom in Kishinev — that was to happen at the end of March, right between the Jewish and (Russian) Orthodox Passovers, as happened in 1903.

And there were many more such alarming press reports (one even said that the police in Mogilev was preparing a pogrom near the Headquarters of Supreme High Command). Not one of these proved true.

One need only get acquainted with the facts of those months, to immerse oneself in the whole “February” atmosphere — of the defeated Right and the triumphant Left, of the stupor and confusion of the common folk — to dismiss outright any realistic possibility of  anti-Jewish pogroms. But how could ordinary Jewish residents of Kiev or Odessa forget those horrible days twelve years before? Their apprehension, their wary caution to any motion in that direction was absolutely understandable.

The well-informed newspapers were a different story. The alarms raised by the newspapers, by enlightened leaders of the liberal camp, and half-baked socialist intellectuals — one cannot call this anything except political provocation. Provocation, however, that fortunately didn’t work.

One actual episode occurred at the Bessarabian bazaar in Kiev, on April 28: a girl stole a piece of ribbon in a Jewish shop and ran away; the store clerk caught up to her and began to beat her. A crowd rushed to lynch the clerk and the store owner, but the police defended them. In another incident, in the Rogachevsky district, people, angered by exorbitant prices, smashed the stores — including Jewish ones.

Where and by whom was the Jewish emancipation met with hostility? Those were our legendary revolutionary Finland, and our “powerful” ally, Romania. In Finland (as we learned in Chapter 10 from Jabotinsky) the Jews were forbidden to reside permanently, and since 1858, only descendants of “Jewish soldiers who served here” (in Finland, during the Crimean War) were allowed to settle. “The passport law of 1862 … confirmed that Jews were forbidden entry into Finland,” and “temporary habitation [was permitted] at the discretion of a local governor”; the Jews could not become Finnish citizens; in order to get married, a Jew had to go to Russia; the rights of Jews to testify in Finnish courts were restricted. Several attempts to mitigate the restriction of the civil rights of the Jews in Finland were not successful.[23] And now, with the advent of Jewish equal rights in Russia, Finland, not having yet announced its complete independence (from Russia), did not legislate Jewish equality. Moreover, they were deporting Jews who had illegally moved to Finland, and not in a day, but in an hour, on the next train out. (One such case on March 16 caused quite a splash in the Russian press.) But Finland was always extolled for helping the revolutionaries, and liberals and socialists stopped short of criticizing her. Only the Bund sent a wire to very influential Finnish socialists, reprimanding them that this “medieval” law was still not repealed. The Bund, “the party of the Jewish proletariat, expresses strong certainty that you will take out that shameful stain from free Finland.”[24]  However, in this certainty, the Bund was mistaken.

And a huge alarm was raised in the post-February press about the persecution of Jews in Romania. They wrote that in Jassy it was even forbidden to speak Yiddish at public meetings. The All-Russian Zionist Student Congress “Gekhover” proposed “to passionately protest this civil inequality of Jews in Romania and Finland, which is humiliating to the world Jewry and demeaning to worldwide democracy.”[25] At that time Romania was weakened by major military defeats. So the Prime Minister Bratianu was making excuses in Petrograd in April saying that “most of the Jews in Romania … migrated there from Russia,” and in particular that “prompted Romanian government to limit the political rights of the Jews”; he promised equality soon.[26] However, in May we read: “In fact, nothing is happening in that direction.”[27] (In May, the Romanian communist Rakovsky reported that “the situation of the Jews in Romania is … unbearable”; the Jews were blamed for the military defeat of the country; they were accused of “fraternizing” with Germans in the occupied parts of the country. “If the Romanian government was not afraid [to anger their allies in the Entente], then one would fear for the very lives of the Jews.”)[28]

The worldwide response among the allies of the February Revolution was expressed in a tone of deep satisfaction, even ecstasy among many, but in this response there was also a short-sighted calculation: that now Russia will become invincible in war.  In Great Britain and the USA there were large meetings in support of the Revolution and the rights of the Jews. (I wrote about some of these responses in March 1917 in Chapters 510 and 621). From America they offered to send a copy of the Statue of Liberty to Russia. (Yet as the situation in Russia continued to deteriorate, they never got around to the Statue). On March 9 in the House of Commons of the British Parliament the Minister of Foreign Affairs was asked a question about the situation of the Jews in Russia: does he plan to consult with the Russian government regarding guarantees to the Russian Jews for the future and reparations for the past? The answer showed the full trust that the British government had for the new Russian government.[29] From Paris, the president of the International Jewish Union congratulated [Russian Prime Minister] Prince Lvov, and Lvov answered: “From today onward liberated Russia will be able to respect the faiths and customs of all of its peoples forever bound by a common religion of love of their homeland.” The newspapers Birzhevka, Rech and many others reported on the sympathies of  Jacob Schiff, “a well known leader of North American circles that are hostile to Russia.” He wrote: “I was always the enemy of Russian absolutism, which mercilessly persecuted my co-religionists. Now let me congratulate … the Russian people for this great act which they committed so perfectly.”[30] And now he “invites the new Russia to conduct broad credit operations in America.”[31] Indeed, “at the time he provided substantial credit to the Kerensky government.”[32] Later in emigration, the exiled Russian right-wing press published investigative reports attempting to show that Schiff actively financed the Revolution itself. Perhaps Schiff shared the short-sighted Western hope that the liberal revolution in Russia would strengthen Russia in the war. Still, the known and public acts of Schiff, who had always been hostile to Russian absolutism, had even greater effect than any possible secret assistance to such a revolution.

The February Revolution itself often consciously appealed for support to Jews, an entire nation enslaved. Eye-witness testimonies that Russian Jews were very ecstatic about the February Revolution are rife.

Yet there are counter-witnesses too, such as Gregory Aronson, who formed and led the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies of Vitebsk (which later had as a member Y.V. Tarle, a future historian). He wrote that on the very first day, when news of the Revolution reached Vitebsk, the newly formed Security Council met in the city Duma, and immediately afterwards Aronson was invited to a meeting of representatives of the Jewish community (clearly, not rank and file, but leaders). “Apparently, there was a need to consult with me as a representative of the new dawning era, what to do further…. I felt alienation from these people, from the circle of their interests and from the tense atmosphere, which was at that meeting….  I had a sense that this society belonged mostly to the old world, which was retreating into the past.”[33] “We were not able to eliminate a certain mutual chill that had come from somewhere. The faces of the people I was working with, displayed no uplift or faith. At times, it appeared that these selfless social activists perceived themselves as elements of the old order.”[34]

That is a precise witness account.  Such bewilderment, caution and wavering predominated among religiously conservative Jews, one assumes, not only in Vitebsk.  The sensible old Jewry, carrying a sense of many centuries of experience of hard ordeals, was apparently shocked by the sudden overthrow of the monarchy and had serious misgivings.

Yet, in the spirit of the 20th century, the dynamic masses of every nation, including Jews, were already secular, not chained to traditions and very eager to build “the happy new world.”

The Jewish Encyclopedia notes “a sharp intensification of the political activity of Jewry, noticeable even against a background of stormy social uplift that gripped Russia after February 1917.”[35]

Myself, having worked for many years on the “February” press and memoirs of the contemporaries of the February, could not fail to noticed this “sharp strengthening,” this gusting. In those materials, from the most varied witnesses and participants of those events, there are so many Jewish names, and the Jewish theme is very loud and persistent.  From the memories of Rodzyanko, from the town governor Balk, from General Globachyov and many others, from the first days of the Revolution in the depths of the Tavrichesky Palace, the numbers of Jews jumped out at me — among the members of the commandants office, the interrogation commissions, the pamphlet-merchants and so on.  V.D. Nabokov, who was well disposed towards Jews, wrote that on March 2 at the entrance to the Tavrichesky mini-park in front of the Duma building, there was “an unbelievable crush of people and shouting; at the entrance of the gates some young, Jewish-looking men were questioning the bypassers.”[36] According to Balk, the crowd that went on the rampage at the “Astoria” [an elite hotel in St. Petersburg] on the night of February 28, consisted of armed … soldiers, sailors and Jews.[37]  I would indulge some emigrant irritability here as they used to say “well, that’s all the Jews”; yet the same was witnessed by another neutral observer, the Methodist pastor Dr. Simons, an American who had already been in Petrograd for ten years and knew it well. He was debriefed by a commission of the American Senate in 1919: “Soon after the March Revolution of 1917, everywhere in Petrograd you could see groups of Jews, standing on benches, soap boxes and such, making speeches…. There had been restrictions on the rights of Jews to live in Petrograd, but after the Revolution they came in droves, and the majority of agitators were Jews … they were apostate Jews.[38]

A certain “Student Hanokh” came to Kronstadt a few days before a planned massacre of sixty officers, who were named on a hit-list; he became the founder and chairman of the Kronstadt’s “Committee of the Revolutionary Movement.” (The order of the Committee was to arrest and try each and all officers. “Somebody had carefully prepared and disseminated false information,” triggering massacres first in Kronstadt, then in Sveaborg; it was “because of the uncertainty of the situation, when every fabrication was taken for a hard fact.”[39]) The baton of the bloody Kronstadt affair was carried by the drop-out psychoneurologist “Dr. Roshal.” (Later, after the October coup, S.G. Roshal was appointed the Commandant of the Gatchina, and from November he was the commissar of the whole Romanian Front, where he was killed upon arrival.[40]

A certain Solomon and a Kaplun spoke on behalf of the newly-formed revolutionary militia of the Vasilievsky Island (in the future, the latter would become the bloody henchman of Zinoviev).

The Petrograd Bar created a special “Commission for the examination of the justice of imprisoning persons arrested during the time of the Revolution” (thousands were arrested during this time in Petrograd) — that is, to virtually decide their fate without due process (and that of all the former gendarmes and police). This commission was headed by the barrister Goldstein. Yet, the unique story of the petty officer Timofey Kirpichnikov, who triggered the street Revolution, was written in March 1917 and preserved for us by the Jew Jacob Markovich Fishman — a curious historical figure. (I with gratitude relied on this story in The Red Wheel.)

The Jewish Encyclopedia concludes: “Jews for the first time in Russian history had occupied posts in the central and regional administrations.”[41]

On the very heights, in the Executive Committee of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, invisibly ruling the country in those months, two leaders distinguished themselves: Nakhamkis-Steklov and Gummer-Sukhanov.On the night of March 1st to March 2nd they dictated to the complacently-blind Provisional Government a program which preemptively destroyed its power for the entire period of its existence.

Reflective contemporary G.A. Landau thus explains the active participation of the Jews in the revolution: “The misfortune of Russia, and the misfortune of the Russian Jewry, is that the results of the first Revolution [1905] were still not processed, not transformed into a new social fabric; no new generation was born, when a great and back-breaking war broke out. And when the hour of disintegration came, it came upon the generation that from the very beginning was a kind of exhausted remnant of the previous revolution; it found the inertia of depleted spirituality, lacking an organic connection to the situation, and chained by spiritual stagnation to the ten-years-ago-bygone period. And so the organic Revolutionism of the beginning of the 20th century [of the First Russian Revolution of 1905] had turned into the mechanical `permanent Revolution´ of the wartime era.”[42]

Through many years of detailed studies I have spent much time trying to comprehend the essence of the February Revolution and the Jewish role in it. I came to this conclusion and can now repeat: no, the February Revolution was not something the Jews did to the Russians, but rather it was done by the Russians themselves, which I believe I amply demonstrated in The Red Wheel. We committed this downfall ourselves:  our anointed Tsar, the court circles, the hapless high-ranking generals, obtuse administrators, and their enemies — the elite intelligentsia, the Octobrist Party, the Zemstvo, the Kadets, the Revolutionary Democrats, socialists and revolutionaries, and along with them, a bandit element of army reservists, distressingly confined to the Petersburg’s barracks. And this is precisely why we perished. True, there were already many Jews among the intelligentsia by that time, yet that is in no way a basis to call it a Jewish revolution.

One may classify revolutions by their main animating forces, and then the February Revolution must be seen as a Russian national Revolution, or more precisely, a Russian ethnic Revolution. Though if one would judge it using the methodology of materialistic sociologists — asking who benefited the most, or benefited most quickly, or the most solidly and in the long term from the Revolution, — then it could be called otherwise, Jewish, for example. But then again why not German? After all, Kaiser Wilhelm initially benefited from it. But the remaining Russian population got nothing but harm and destruction; however, that doesn’t make the Revolution “non-Russian.” The Jewish society got everything it fought for from the Revolution, and the October Revolution was altogether unnecessary for them, except for a small slice of young cutthroat Jews, who with their Russian internationalist brothers accumulated an explosive charge of hate for the Russian governing class and burst forth to “deepen” the Revolution.

So how, having understood this, was I to move through March 1917 and then April 1917? Describing the Revolution literally hour by hour, I frequently found the many episodes in the sources that had a Jewish theme. Yet would it be right to simply pour all that on the pages of March 1917?  Then that easy and piquant temptation — to put all the blame on Jews, on their ideas and actions, to see them as the main reason for these events — would easily skew the book and overcome the readers, and divert the research away from the truly main causes of the Revolution.

And so in order to avoid the self-deception of the Russians, I persistently and purposely downplayed the Jewish theme in The Red Wheel, relative to its actual coverage in the press and on the streets in those days.

The February Revolution was carried out by Russian hands and Russian foolishness. Yet at the same time, its ideology was permeated and dominated by the intransigent hostility to the historical Russian state that ordinary Russians didn’t have, but the Jews — had. So the Russian intelligentsia too had adopted this view. (This was discussed in Chapter 11). This intransigent hostility grew especially sharp after the trial of Beilis, and then after the mass expulsion of Jews in 1915. And so this intransigence overcame the moderation.

Yet the Executive Committee of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, which was formed within hours of the Revolution, appears very different. This Executive Committee was in fact a tough shadow government that deprived the liberal Provisional Government of any real power, while at the same time, criminally refused to accept responsibility for its power openly. By its “Order No. 1,” the Executive Committee  wrested the power from the military and created support for itself in the demoralized garrison of Petrograd. It was precisely this Executive Committee, and not the judiciary, not the timber industrialists, not the bankers, which fast-tracked the country to her doom. In the summer of 1917, Joseph Goldenberg, a member of the Executive Committee explained to the French Diplomat Claude Anet: “The Order No. 1 was not a mistake; it was a necessity…. On the day we executed the Revolution, we realized that if we did not destroy the old army, it would crush the Revolution. We had to choose between the army and the Revolution, and we did not waver: we chose the latter … [and we inflicted,] I dare say, a brilliant blow.”[43] So there you have it. The Executive Committee quite purposely destroyed the army in the middle of the war.

Is it legitimate to ask who were those successful and fatal-for-Russia leaders of the Executive Committee? Yes, it is legitimate, when actions of such leaders abruptly change the course of history. And it must be said that the composition of the Executive Committee greatly concerned the public and the newspapers in 1917, during which time many members of the Committee concealed themselves behind pseudonyms from the public eye: who was ruling Russia?  No one knew.

Then, as it turned out, there was a dozen of soldiers, who were there just for show and weren’t very bright, they were kept out of any real power or decision making. From the other thirty, though, of those who actually wielded power, more than half were Jewish socialists. There were also Russians, Caucasians, Latvians and Poles. Less than a quarter were Russians.

The moderate socialist V.B. Stankevich noted: “What really stuck out in the composition of the Committee was the large foreign element … totally out of proportion to their part of the population in Petrograd or the country in general.” Stankevich asks, “Was this the unhealthy scum of Russian society? Or was this the consequence of the sins of the old regime, which by its actions violently pushed the foreign element into the Leftist parties? Or was that simply the result of free competition?” And then, “there remains an open question — who bears more guilt for this — the foreign born, who were there, or the Russians who could have been there but weren’t?”[44]

For a socialist that might be a case to look for a guilty party. Yet wouldn’t it better for all — for us, for you, for them — to avoid sinking into that mad dirty torrent altogether?

[1] Rech, 1917, March 17

[2] Birzhevye Vedomosti, 1917, March 8 (here and further, the morning edition)

[3] ibid, March 10, page 6

[4] Abridged Jewish Encyclopedia, (heretofore AJE) Jerusalem: Society for the Research of Jewish Community, 1994, Volume 7, Page 377

[5] Rech’, March 9, 1917 Page 4: March 10, Page 5, et. al.

[6] Birzheviye Vedomosti, March 9, 1917, Page 2

[7] Ibid, March 10, Page 2

[8] AJE, Volume 7, Page 377

[9][9] G.B. Sliozberg, Dela Minuvshikh Dney: Zapiski Russkovo Yevreya: Paris, 1933-1934, Volume 3, Page 360

[10]AJE, Volume 7, Page 377

[11] Rech’, March 25, 1917, Page 6

[12] Ibid

[13] R.G. Vinaver, Memoirs (New York, 1944) //  Hraneniye Guverskovo Instituta Voyni, Revolutsiyi I Mira ? Stanford, California, Mashinopis’, Page 92

[14] Russkaya Volya, March 29, Page 5

[15] G.B. Slyozberg, Dela Minuvshikh Dney, Volume 3, Page 360

[16] B. Orlov, Rossiya byez Yevreev (Russia without Jews) // ?22?: Obshestvenno-politicheskiy a literaturniy zhurnal yevreyskoy inteligentsi’I iz SSSR v Izrayelye.  Tel-Aviv, 1988, No. 60, Page 157.

[17] Rech’, March 17, 1917, Page 5

[18] Padeniye Tsarskovo Rezhima (Fall of the Tsarist Regime): Stenographicheskiye otchyoti doprosov a pokazani’I, dannikh v. 1917 g. v Chryezvichaynoy Sledstvennoy Kommissi’I Vremennovo Pravityelstva. L.: GUZ, 1924, T.1. Pages 119-121, 429

[19] Russkaya Volya (Russian Will), April 21, 1917, Page 4

[20] Izvestiya Petrogradskovo Sovieta Rabochikh I Soldatskikh Deputatov, (heretofore ?Izvestiya), March 6, 1917, Page 4

[21] Izvestiya, March 6, Page 2

[22] For example: Birzheviye Vedomosti, April 8 and 12, 1917; Russkaya Volya, April 9, 1917; Izvestiya, April 15, and 28, 1917; et. al.

[23] Yevreyskaya Encyclopedia (Jewish Encyclopedia): Volume 16 SPB: Obshestvo dlya Nauchnikh Yevreskikh Izdanni’I I Izd-Vo Brokaw-Yefron, 1906-1913. Volume 15, Page 281-284

[24] Izvyestiya, March 26, 1917 Page 2

[25] Russkaya Volya, April 15, 1917, Page 4

[26] Birzheviye Vedomosti, April 23, 1917, Page 3

[27] ibid, May 19, Page 1

[28] Dyen’ (Day), May 10, 1917

[29] Birzheviye Vedomosti, March 11, 1917, Page 2

[30] Birzheviye Vedomosti, March 10, 1917, Page 6

[31] Rech’, March 10, 1917, Page 3

[32] Encyclopedia Judaica, Jerusalem, Keter Publishing House, 1971, Volume 14, Page 961

[33] G.Y. Aronson, Intervyu Radiostantsi’I ?Svoboda? // Vospominaniya o revolutsi’I 1917 goda, Intervyu No. 66, Munchen, 1966, Page 13-14

[34] G. Aronson, Revolutsionnaya Yunost’: Vospominaniya, 1903-1917 // Inter-University Project on the History of the Menshevik Movement, Paper No. 6, New York, August 1961, Page 33

[35] AJE, T. 7, Page 378

[36] V. Nabokov, Vremennoye Pravitelstvo // Arkhiv Russkoy Revolutsi’I, izdavaemiy I.V. Gessenom.  Berlin:  Slovo, 1922-1937,  Vol. 1, Page 15

[37] A. Balk, Posledniye pyat’ dney tsarskovo Petrograda (23-28 Fevralya 1917) Dnevnik poslednevo Petrogradskovo Gradonachal’nika // Khranenie Guverskovo Instituta, Mashinopis’, Page 16

[38] Oktyabrskaya revolutsiya pered sudom amerikanskikh senatorov: Ofitsialniy otchyot ?overmenskoy kommissi’I? Senata.  M.;L.; GIZ, 1927 Page 5

[39] D.O. Zaslavskiy, Vl. A. Kantorovich.  Khronika Fevralskoy revolutsi’I, Pg.: Biloye, 1924. Volume 1, Page 63, 65

[40] Rosskiskaya Yevreyskaya Encyclopedia, 2-e izd., ispr. I dop. M., 1995, Volume 2, Page 502

[41] AJE, Volume 7, Page 381

[42] G.A. Landau, Revolutsionniye idyee v Yevreyskoy obshestvennosti // Rossi’I I every: Sb. 1 / Otechestvennoye ob’yedinennie russkikh yevreyev za granitsyey.  Paris: YMCA ? Press, 1978, Page 116 [1-e izd. ? Berlin: Osnova, 1924]

[43] Claude Anet, La revolution russe: Juin-Novembre 1917. Paris: Payot et C-ie, 1918, Page 61

[44] V.B. Stankevich, Vospominaniya, 1914-1919, Berlin: Izd-vo I.P. Ladizhnikova, 1920, Page 86

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